Geoengineering and the Science Communication Environment: A Cross-Cultural Experiment

July 4, 2012
Faculty Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology

Boardroom (a.1.370)
Jaffalaan 5
Delft 2628 BX


Dan Kahan
Yale University


Sabine Roeser
Delft University of Technology

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Dan Kahan ( is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School. He is an internationally leading expert on risk perception and is head of the Cultural Cognition Project, which examines the role of cultural values in risk perception.

At the workshop on July 4th, Prof. Kahan will give a lecture, followed by discussion.  


We conducted a two-nation study (United States, n = 1500; England, n= 1500) to test a novel theory of science communication. The cultural cognition thesis posits that individuals make extensive reliance on cultural meanings in forming perceptions of risk. The logic of the cultural cognition thesis suggests the potential value of a distinctive two-channel science communication strategy that combines information content (“Channel 1”) with cultural meanings (“Channel 2”) selected to promote open-minded assessment of information across diverse communities. In the study, scientific information content on climate change was held constant while the cultural meaning of that information was experimentally manipulated. Consistent with the study hypotheses, we found that making citizens aware of the potential contribution of geoengineering as a supplement to restriction of CO2 emissions helps to offset cultural polarization over the validity of climate-change science. We also tested the hypothesis, derived from competing models of science communication, that exposure to information on geoengineering would provoke discounting of climate-change risks generally. Contrary to this hypothesis, we found that subjects exposed to information about geoengineering were slightly more concerned about climate change risks than those assigned to a control condition.

Workshop participants might wish to study the paper in advance (link), and they might also like to read Kahan, D.M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L.L., Braman, D. & Mandel, G. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Clim. Change (2012),  advance online publication doi:

If you would like to participate at the workshop, please send an email to Henneke Filiz: [email protected]

Time: 3-5pm, boardroom (a.1.370)

Location: building nr 31 on the campus map:

We look forward to welcoming you at the workshop.

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July 4, 2012, 11:00am CET

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